Planning for the Unplannable

by | Nov 3, 2023 | Blog

“Luck favors the prepared.” – Edna Mode

Planning for the unimaginable should be in place whether you go anywhere or not. I’m talking about planning on a slightly deeper level than booking that boarding reservation or leaving your pet with a family member for the weekend. Are you prepared for a pet emergency? Are your pet caregivers prepared for a pet emergency? Do your pet caregivers know how you would want them to act on your behalf in a pet emergency?

Lack of planning for clients’ pets has resulted in some challenging situations throughout my career as a veterinary nurse. Young, old, sick, or healthy, stuff happens; not just typical stuff but weird stuff that you never thought possible. Hit by car, animal bites, accidental traumas, and underlying diseases that no one knew about only scratches the surface of things that can happen.

Both you and your pet’s caregivers need a plan. Ask yourself the following questions:

    • Where should your pet be taken to receive medical care?
    • What kind of care would you approve?
    • How much money are you willing to spend?
    • Are funds available at any time of the day or night?
    • Does your pet’s caregiver have access to funds at any time of the day or night?
    • What should be done if you aren’t reachable?
    • What if time is a factor in decision making in an emergency?
      • Would you want CPR performed, or not?
      • If your pet is suffering, how do you feel about humane euthanasia?
      • What if your pet dies of any cause while you are away, what kind of aftercare would you want, who should provide it?

That is a lot to think about when you aren’t in an emergent situation. Now, imagine trying to answer those questions when your fur baby is having an emergency. Put yourself in the shoes of your pet’s caregiver if you are away.

You, or your pet’s caregiver, may eventually end up at a local veterinary emergency room who will require at least $100, upfront, to examine your pet. The doctor will likely want to run blood work and x-rays and now giving an estimate of at least $500. If you are out of town, your caregiver will have likely attempted to contact you, but what if you are unreachable? What are they supposed to do?

If you can’t answer the above questions, set yourself up for success now. Consider taking a few minutes to plan for the unplannable. Make an emergency checklist for yourself and one for any potential caregiver. Have a conversation about emergency planning with your family so everyone is on the same page. Have this conversation with your pet’s caregivers so they know how you would wish them to proceed on your behalf. These thinkable scenarios can lay groundwork for the unthinkable, should they occur.

Create a form with The Basics that you can print, text, or email. Put it in an easily accessible place in your home. Make sure your pet’s caregiver has a copy!

The Basics:

    • Regular veterinarian: name, location, phone number, and hours of operation.
    • List of medications & supplements that your pet is currently taking and why they are taking them.
    • List any current medical issues or common ailments that your pet may have.
    • Brand of food and feeding schedule. List any dietary issues or sensitivities.
    • Local veterinary emergency facility: name, location, phone number, and hours of operation.
      • Exam fee and what kind of payments they accept.

Also Consider:

    • Having the most recent medical records available. Remember that if you or your pet sitter must take your pet to the ER, the ER clinic won’t necessarily have access to these records.
    • Having copies of the most recent diagnostics, such as blood work.
    • Financial resources
      • Do you have a financial limit to spend on emergent medical care?
        • ER facilities will expect payment at the time of services or at least want a significant deposit on approved services.
        • Will you provide your pet sitter with a credit card number?
      • Do they have their own resources and you can reimburse them later?
    • Pet Insurance
      • What does your plan cover?
      • What documentation will the insurance company require from the medical facility for reimbursement?
    • Funds
      • Do you have cash on hand to cover up to $1K, a credit card, or an account with a pet care finance company like CareCredit or ScratchPay?
    • How do you feel about CPR?
      • The ER will want to know if this is something you would want should your pet go into respiratory or cardiac arrest.
      • Do you know what CPR means and its success rate?
      • Do realize there is a fee for CPR whether it is successful or not.
    • What types of medical treatments would you want for your pet?
      • Diagnostics such as bloodwork, x-rays, or ultrasound.
      • Oxygen supplementation
      • Hospitalization for stabilization
      • Pain management
      • Surgical intervention
    • End-of-life care
      • If your pet has a terminal illness and they go into crisis, would you want CPR, supportive care, or humane euthanasia?
      • What would be your criteria to elect humane euthanasia for your pet?
        • Are you comfortable putting that decision into the hands of your pet sitter?
      • Is it important to you to say goodbye to your pet and/or be present for humane euthanasia?
      • Do you know what you would want to do with your pet’s remains regardless of the cause of death?
        • Private cremation vs communal cremation vs burial.
        • Would you want a remembrance item such as a paw print or lock of hair?
    • Creating an Advanced Directive and/or a Medical Power of Attorney for time periods you may not be available to make decisions regarding your pet’s care. Some veterinary offices offer such documents that you can download, or you can even write a simple letter giving permission for specific individuals to make medical decisions for your pet.

It’s a lot to think about, no doubt! Trust me, it’s a lot more to think about when you are hundreds of miles away or blindsided by an emergent event. Take the time to consider these questions and options when it isn’t urgent. Lay the foundation to ease the burden and stress on your pet’s caregivers, you, and your family, and most importantly for your pet.